Friday, September 21 , 2018, 3:56 am | Overcast 65º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Goleta Council Debates Relinquishing Portion of Roadway Right-of-Way for Willow Springs Project

Towbes Group's third phase of the development, Heritage Ridge, is designed around the city vacating part of its Los Carneros Road right-of-way

apartment development Click to view larger
The third phase of the Willow Springs housing development in Goleta is planned for the empty land north of the finished units, shown here, at 60 Willow Springs Lane near Los Carneros Road.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The third phase of the Willow Springs housing development ran into an obstacle this week as the Goleta City Council questioned vacating the roadway right-of-way that The Towbes Group relies on for the current design of the 350-plus-unit project.

The site for Heritage Ridge, a proposed development with senior and workforce rental housing, is located just north of the completed Willow Springs apartments, east of Los Carneros Road between Hollister Avenue and Highway 101.

As part of its project application, The Towbes Group requested the city vacate part of the Los Carneros Road right-of-way, in the space between the roadway and the developer’s property line.

According to emails and other correspondence noted by a Towbes Group attorney, past city staff members were well aware of the request and seemed to think it would go through, but it’s still unresolved as the project moves forward.

Easement issues are usually handled by staff during development approval process, but two council members asked that the issue be brought before the full council for discussion, Public Works Director Charlie Ebeling said in a staff report.  

Tuesday’s meeting was to discuss the roadway right-of-way and the potential future uses for the city, not a forum to talk about the proposed project or its merits, Deputy City Attorney Winnie Cai noted.

Council members discussed their options of relinquishing the right-of-way the developer requested, not relinquishing it, or relinquishing a portion of it, in a compromise proposal reached by Ebeling and the developer’s civil engineer, Dale Weber of MAC Design Associates.  

The compromise idea would have the city vacate a portion of the Los Carneros Road right-of-way and have the developer grant a 5-foot easement on the northern end of the property near Highway 101 – that would create a contiguous 10-foot “buffer” between the roadway and Heritage Ridge property line, according to the city.

The city’s concern with vacating a portion of the right-of-way easement is that the city may need the land for future public use, including roadway projects like adding turn lanes, Ebeling said.

Though the city doesn’t have any projects on the books that likely would need more space than the compromise allows, it is still a small risk for the future, he said.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to pay for an engineering design study to look at future right-of-way needs for Los Carneros Road, and pursue the third, compromise option of vacating a portion of the roadway right-of-way.

Six Towbes Group representatives attended Tuesday’s meeting, and company president Craig Zimmerman said he was surprised to be at the council discussing this issue, since it is not a new one.

The developer worked with city officials to set up project boundaries and design, and turned in a completed application to the city in 2014, he said.

The issue of vacating the right-of-way came up again earlier this year as the project was preparing for Planning Commission review, he said.

“This 180 by the city on a critical part of the project was concerning,” he said.

He and Weber argued that there is plenty of room to add turn lanes to Los Carneros Road in the future, with the buffer zone space, if the city decides to do so.

Ebeling said city staff were also caught by surprise earlier this year that the right-of-way issue was not resolved, and that clearly there was not adequate communication internally between city departments and externally with the developer in the past.

“We’re here because there was some breakdown in communication,” he said.

Mayor Paula Perotte said it is the city's responsibility to study the decision to vacate the right-of-way, and not take a chance on it. 

“I’m really sorry that all this time you had the impression this was approved,” she said. 

The council also directed staff to move the project forward to Planning Commission review, since that is the next step in its development approval process.

However, Planning and Environmental Review Director Peter Imhof said the commission should not give its recommendations to the council until the right-of-way issue is resolved.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >